Jul 24, 2024  
2015-2016 UMass Dartmouth Graduate Catalog 
2015-2016 UMass Dartmouth Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

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The completion of a minimum of 60 credits is required for the Master of Fine Arts degree.  Studies in the three MFA programs – Artisanry, Fine Arts and Design – culminate in a visual thesis exhibition and an accompanying written report. The core requirements for the three MFA programs are the same. The curriculum requires a minimum of two years to complete. Students in some areas devote three years to complete coursework, make up deficiencies and develop the professional body of work required for the visual thesis. While Artisanry students typically spend three years in graduate study, students in Design and Fine Arts may spend two or three. Progression through the program should be planned in consultation with the student’s advisor and the relevant Graduate Program Director.  A student’s Graduate Committee may make changes to a student’s timetable as it monitors academic and progress.

No more than 18 credits of individual study – including independent study, graduate research and graduate project or thesis – may count as credit toward the MFA degree.

When the student has completed all academic requirements, the graduate advisor will conduct a preliminary certification, and then forward the certification to the relevant Graduate Program Director and Dean for additional review. 


All students take the following core courses: 21 credits

Academic/studio electives: 12 credits

as decided in individual study plans and as noted below

  • XXX University-wide elective (3); selected from graduate courses across the university
  • XXX Academic/studio elective (3) - CVPA academic or studio course
  • XXX Academic/studio elective (3) - CVPA academic or studio course
  • XXX Academic/studio elective (3) - CVPA academic or studio course


Graduate Studio Sequence: 27 credits

  • ART Graduate Studio I - 9 credits


  • ART Graduate Studio I - 6 credits AND
  • ART Graduate Studio Elective - 3 credits
  • ART Graduate Studio II - 9 credits


  • ART Graduate Studio II - 6 credits AND
  • ART Graduate Studio Elective - 3 credits
  • ART Graduate Studio III - 9 credits


  • ART Graduate Studio III - 6 credits AND
  • ART Graduate Studio Elective - 3 credits


  • ART Graduate Studio III - 3 credits AND
  • ART Graduate Studio Elective - 3 credits AND
  • ART Academic Elective - 3 credits

Total credits: 60

Independent and Directed Study

  • For MFA students, the maximum number of individual study credits is18 (including 9 credits of visual and written thesis).
  • A Directed Study shall be designated as ART 596 and will require approval of the relevant paperwork.
  • An Independent Study shall be designated as ART 595 and will require approval of the relevant paperwork.
  • MFA students who seek to achieve technical or theoretical competencies from undergraduate course content (200-, 300-, or 400-level) shall submit Independent Study paperwork and obtain relevant approvals.  Such undergraduate courses may not count toward the 60 credits required for the MFA degree.
  • The following protocol shall be used for independent and directed studies:
    • ART 595 (Independent Study) is used when a MFA student seeks approval of an intensive, original research project that is not otherwise available through an existing course.
    • ART 596 (Directed Study) is used when a MFA student seeks to enroll in an existing graduate course that is not offered in the semester in which the student seeks to take it.
    • ARH 595, FIA 595, DES 595, ATR 595 (Independent Study) is used when the Independent Study is similar to an existing course and where attendance at the existing course is encouraged. No graduate-level Independent Study may require undergraduate course attendance or completion of undergraduate assignments as a significant component of the work to be performed.

Additional conditions

  • Graduate-level Independent Study may be used for a specific area of interest or research that is not covered by an existing CVPA graduate course.
  • Up to six (6) credits of a 400-level course may count toward toward the MFA degree if the final course grade is “B” or better.
  • A maximum of nine (9) studio credits is recommended per semester.
  • Waiver of a required course must be approved by the Major Advisor, Graduate Coordinator, and Dean. The waiver of a course is not a waiver of credits, which must be completed fully. Notation of waiver will be entered into a student’s record.
  • With relevant approvals, up to six (6) transfer credits may count as elective credits but not as major studio credits.


Progression requirements

  • 60 credit hours
  • Two-year length of study: Design, Fine Arts (Painting, Drawing, Printmaking)
  • Three-year length of study: Artisanry, Design, Fine Arts (Sculpture)
  • Typical course load per semester is 15 credits
  • For full-time enrollment, minimum of nine graduate credits that count toward the degree are required

At Admission

Appointment of Primary Advisor, who specializes in the chosen medium; identification of academic deficiencies (see Admission with deficiencies, above)

Semester 1

  • Definition of Graduate Committee (Artisanry)
  • Mid-semester Review;
  • Semester-end Review

Semester 2

  • Definition of Graduate Committee (Fine Arts and Visual Design)
  • Mid-semester Review;
  • Semester-end Review

Semester 3

  • Presentation of thesis proposal and its approval by Graduate Committee and Program Director.
  • Mid-semester Review.
  • Semester-end Review.

Semester 4

  • Mid-semester Review.
  • Visual Thesis Exhibition.
  • Submission of written report and its approval by the committee and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Graduate Studies.
  • Discussion/critique by visiting critic.
  • Oral defense of the written report and visual thesis before the college community. The student’s committee will give advice concerning final grades.
  • If all course work has been completed and the student has registered for ART 512 Visual Thesis and ART 516 Written Report for credit, but the student has not completed all thesis components, s/he must register for ART 512 and ART 516 as zero-credit continuation courses until all components are completed and other degree requirements are met.

NOTE:  Three-year programs will follow six semester schedule.


The Major Advisor will conduct a preliminary certification and then forward it to the relevant Graduate Program Director and Department Chairperson for approval and recommendation of graduation to the Dean. Degree completion must include both the visual thesis and written report.


A student is subject to academic dismissal if any of the following occur:

  • the cumulative GPA is less than 2.67 after having attempted nine (9) or more credits;
  • the cumulative GPA is less than 3.00 at any point in the student’s MFA career;
  • three (3) final course grades below “B minus” are earned;
  • more than 8 credits graded “C plus” or below are earned;
  • the thesis is graded “F”; or
  • progress toward developing work of an appropriate level of quality is inadequate in the opinion of the Graduate Committee, the relevant Graduate Program Director and the Dean.


The MFA Graduate Program Director (GPD) for each area (Artisanry, Fine Arts, Visual Design) guides all phases of the degree programs within their area and assures uniformity in the administration of their program. The CVPA Coordinator for Graduate Studies & Research exercises authority in MFA-related issues below the level of the Dean. In instances where matters of policy are involved or when consultation is in order, the Graduate Coordinator and GPDs confer with the CVPA Graduate Committee. The Dean of the College of Visual & Performing Arts retains final authority in the College for all graduate programs.

Upon admission to UMass Dartmouth, students are assigned a primary faculty advisor. At this time or before the middle of the second semester, a Graduate Committee (typically, two members of the CVPA faculty in addition to the primary advisor) will be identified. The Graduate Program Director in the student’s discipline takes part in advising, solving problems with graduate committees, dismissals and leaves of absence. The GPD also has discussions with graduate committees and graduate students regarding progress through the program. The GPD reviews, signs and forwards for review directed and independent study paperwork.  The student’s primary thesis advisor must approve all course registrations and programs of study.

It is customary for the student’s graduate committee to remain in place for the duration of his or her studies. To make a change in the committee membership, approval by the primary advisor and other members of the committee is required, as is consent by those faculty the student wishes to add to his or her committee. The Graduate Program Director’s approval is also required before forwarding to the CVPA Graduate Coordinator.

The role of the committee is to help students meet the demands of the program and to counsel on the development of their work. Its major task is to review the student’s work. Twice each semester, at the mid-point and at the end, the committee meets to do this. It identifies important problems which need to be addressed and provides verbal and written opinions concerning progress. These reviews are obligatory and essential parts of the total graduate experience. The committee also approves students’ thesis topics and the visual thesis and written reports.

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